Wednesday, October 15, 2014


It's amazing how many people think you need to get somebody's permission to make a statement or have an opinion. Especially on the Internet.

It's also amazing how many people believe some arbitrary threshold of relevance must be crossed before someone's content is worth making.

I can't even count the times and ways in which I have been criticized for making content. Not the content itself, mind you; they're not even arguing with my message or any of the points I'm making. I don't mind if someone wants to question or criticize my content. I'm saying they're arguing with me about whether I should have bothered making it.

And whether I have the right.

YouTube. How many times have people written blistering epics in the comments field, opining that asexuality activism does not matter because nobody's really being hurt or 1% of the population (as we supposedly are) just isn't enough to bother with? How many times have people told me I'm selfishly stealing finite resources from whatever Real Problems they think deserve more attention? How many times have people who have done not one bit of research about our experience tried to tell me my content isn't relevant enough to deserve the time and energy put into creating it or the time "wasted" on watching it?

Yeah, it's a lot.

And yet, 4,000 subscribers or so seem to disagree, and the heartbreaking and heartwarming comments I get from people whose lives I've improved make it clear there's a benefit.

These folks don't care. It's not important to them or anyone they know; it's been invisible to them their whole lives; it doesn't make logical sense to them that being asexual in this world could involve both blunt and subtle trauma; it doesn't matter to them that there are far more reasons that marginalized people need to find and interact with each other far beyond matters of civil rights and violence.

And they are saying this about YouTube. They're saying my stuff isn't relevant or important enough to have space and time devoted to it on YouTube. I'm pretty sure I don't have to find ten or twenty quick examples of ridiculous things on YouTube for people to take my word for it that it is NOT some high-standards bastion of polished content and newsworthy items.

What else? Tumblr. I have around 1600 followers on my asexuality-specific Tumblr blog. Tumblr is often mocked even within Tumblr--not to mention outside it--for having an idealistic and young population. I've had people tell me straight up that putting my writings on Tumblr--which I joined because there was a healthy asexual community there--is pointless because no one takes Tumblr seriously. Oh really? So if I put it on YouTube (ahem, I mean SeriousTube), it's too silly, but if I put my supposedly silly content on Tumblr, I'm giving asexuality a bad name since Tumblr is full of SJW college kids? (Despite that I don't think this about Tumblr--and that I think accusing Tumblr denizens of being immature and easily agitated over "nothing" is way more immature and reactionary than people actually are on that site--I still wouldn't be there if I didn't think it was a nice accessible place to put my content.)

Okay, perceived legitimacy problem. What else? Well, I've talked about my content in magazines, on television, in a documentary film, on podcasts, on the radio, on blogs, and during in-person educational talks. I've been in TIME and Salon and The New York Times. And now I've written a book about it, queried agents and found one to represent the project, sold it to a publisher, and made it available to people all over the world. Good enough?

Nope. Now this is rare, but every once in a while, someone says the mainstream press classifies me as a sellout. That I'm not really doing this for a real cause; I must just want attention or want to make money. Furthermore, I don't have the right to represent the asexual community because I shouldn't be speaking for everyone like that. (This is despite the fact that I do my best to point out that I don't speak for everyone whenever I get the opportunity and whenever it might be unclear, and that I often answer questions by acknowledging the community's tendency to give different answers BEFORE I answer for myself.) And even though obviously no one person and no one work can "represent (and feature) the whole community" while remaining concise, I was aware that no matter what I said, it would be assumed to represent most or all asexual people, and I was determined to do the best I could to incorporate feedback and contributions from every demographic in my community that I could think of.

So in addition to including contributed quotes from more than a dozen other influential asexual-spectrum bloggers, I managed to get hundreds of people to help test-read it (that is not an exaggeration) so I could have the best shot of properly representing a diverse community with different experiences from me, and I didn't just find one person to "represent" a whole group. I put out a specific call asking people to help me with certain sections of the book if they were in a group I felt I couldn't properly, authentically speak about without help, such as male asexual people, asexual people with disabilities, asexual people of color, asexual people who practice a religion, et cetera. I received lots of great feedback about what I needed to include/change/expand and what I was already doing well. I only received one hostile reaction at the editing stage, and that was from a person who was angry that I had used my introduction to talk about my own experiences instead of providing a skinny version of the content of the entire book.

And yet sometimes I still get this. How have you helped? Who needs your book? You're not a public figure. You're not an academic--you don't know what you're doing. You're too much of an academic--you're too separate from the everyperson up in your Ivory Tower. You said something I disagreed with once, so I can't support anything you say. You agreed with someone I don't like, so everything you do is suspect. You're not pretty enough--you make us look like we're all ugly people who can't get a date. You're too pretty--you make people think you can only be asexual if you get offers and refuse them. You didn't cover my pet issue comprehensively enough, so you might as well have not written the book. You don't define your terms well enough, so it's worse than useless--it's confusing. You spend too much time defining terms, so it's worse than useless--it's boring. I'm anti-sex and I'm furious that you claimed asexual people can have sex and still be asexual. I'm into compulsory sexuality and I'm furious that you claimed asexual people should be able to choose whether they have sex in relationships. I think you're being irresponsible by claiming asexual people can be kinky because there's something wrong with those people. You're a bad person and you should feel bad.

Sometimes I even get "you haven't done enough, PROVE to me that you're helping" and "oh wow look at all you've done--so you expect me to be impressed?" from the SAME PERSON.

I'm certainly happy to take criticism about the book--especially since it will come out in paperback next year and I will have the opportunity to update if I need to--but that criticism needs to not be accusatory or sound like harassment, or I'm just going to think it's one of those people who will hate me no matter what I do. There's a huge difference between "can you include a section/expand your section on X?" vs. "WTF do you think you're doing refusing to cover X properly? People like you are always trying to erase us." No, I'm really not, but I'm never going to actually know what you mean if this is the first time I've had this conversation and I lack the context to understand the problem. I know I'm not perfect and cannot be/have not been everywhere. But I also don't like giving up and saying "Can't please everyone, so I might as well be a jerk!" I have always been approachable and a listener. That's why I did things the way I did when I was creating the book in the first place. It's really frustrating when people think I'm out to harm them.

So now here's the thing. Despite all the squawking about FREE SPEECH when people see that their words have consequences, some of the people trying to harass me into silence are doing so by saying--in some way or another--that I don't deserve to be speaking. Either the message itself isn't worth saying or I'm not qualified to say it. They are the arbiters of who's qualified, whose issues are important enough, what's justified. And this arbiter role is something they possess simply by virtue of being them; they can "see" through whatever their version of common sense is that the world would be a better place if I just shut up. The populations they were unaware of until I made them uncomfortable by talking about them probably just don't exist or don't have it as bad as I say or don't need help or need to be fixed or need to face that they're mentally/physically ill or shouldn't be encouraged or--ultimately--shouldn't be acknowledged as a relevant population to consider important in our daily lives. Oh noes, things would be better if these conversations were not happening in places where I might intersect with them and be asked to offer proper decorum and respect! That would be horrible! Better convince her that she has no business opening her mouth!

It doesn't work, guys. Because the type, style, and content of your resistance is exactly the kind of thing bigoted, selfish people always choose when they attempt to "fight" someone they disagree with. Instead of arguing with the message, they try to shame the messenger, pelting her with "how dare you think you can speak?"

How dare I?

Well, I've already seen what happens in the silence. And despite the abuse and harassment I'm dealing with, I like it a lot better this way.

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